There's a historic home in Boise you may not have noticed as you buzzed down Main Street, but the building and its original owner played an important role in the history of the city.
The Regan House, built by pioneer Idaho businessman Timothy Regan (more about Regan on page 31) in about 1904-05, is located at 110 Main St., across from the Ronald McDonald House. Eventually, the home became a Boise State fraternity house.
Today, it is owned by Bob Bushnell (pictured at left), who purchased it in the late 1970s. He originally bought the house to use as an office for his law practice. He left his practice to go into business, and the house sat empty for a couple of years. Meanwhile, Bushnell, his wife and daughter were in search of a new home. Because he still owned the building, they decided to stay there while they were looking.
"We had no intention of living here until the first night we stayed here," Bushnell said. It had not even occurred to them to move in, but by morning, they had a home and a new project.
"We had a wonderful time fixing it up," he said.
And fix it up they did.
They repainted the ceilings, some of them vaulted cove ceilings. They re-roofed the home and oiled all the wood. More recently, while steaming and stripping the wallpaper off the first-floor walls, original frescoes - rarely found in Boise - were discovered painted into the plaster, and several panels and fragments in the parlor and den were preserved.
Indeed, the availability of the original plans has helped in the home's moderate restoration.
The kitchen, of course, was completely redone. Decades of cooking grease, not to mention fraternity cooking, necessitated a complete revamping. But the high ceiling and windows make it very warm and usable.
"It's a pleasant place to cook," Bushnell said.
The original icebox is still in place, and today it makes a fine place to keep the wine.
The house, which sits on a relatively small lot, is certainly no small cottage. Its 6,700 square feet include a basement and an attic, and a total of about 20 rooms. Like many of the homes in the Warm Springs Avenue area, the home is now heated geothermally.
The interior, particularly the entrance, stairway, front room and dining room, is where the character of the home truly shines. Almost literally. The beveled window glass casts tiny rainbows across the room when the light is right.
But, oh, the woodwork, which by some stroke of luck was never painted.
The foyer and the living room feature quarter-sawn oak. The parlor's wood trim is bird's-eye maple, and the den features sycamore.
The magnificent parts of the foyer area are the two large pocket doors that separate the living room from the parlor and the den, with each side of the pocket doors matching the woodwork of its room. It's one of those design elements you just won't forget.
Meanwhile, the formal dining room is dressed with solid cherry paneling, along with a niche topped with an inspirational sunburst that is completely handcrafted in that same cherry wood. The Regans were devout Catholics, and the niche originally held a statue of the Madonna.
But there is more to the woodwork than just the variety and quality workmanship. Check out the doorknobs and brass hardware throughout the house.
At the time the house was built, the knobs and hardware cost about $8,000 - an extremely handsome sum at the time.
The exterior of the home also has changed dramatically since it was built - with Boise sandstone from Table Rock, of course.
Idaho historian Arthur Hart describes the design of the home as Georgian Revival, which is "a little more elegant than your typical Colonial style."
In his book, "Historic Boise," Hart says these residential styles were "characterized by the same classical details made popular by the Chicago Fair, and shining white in color, the new houses were often fronted by graceful temple-like porticos in Tuscan, Ionic or Corinthian orders."
He describes the Regan House as "an elegant Corinthian structure with a graceful two-story portico which contrasts with a sandstone main block."
When the home was sold by Regan's widow in 1939, changes were imminent.
The large front entrance was fine, but the wrap-around front porches had to go. The new owners thought they blocked too much light from entering the living areas. (If you are an architecture buff, the restored Daly House at 1015 W. Hays St. gives an idea of how the original porches and columns looked.)
Bushnell and his wife had two more children - another daughter and a son - while living in the Main Street house, but they eventually divorced, and Bushnell raised the children as a single parent. "This house was a great place to raise a family," he said.
He kept working on the house and brought in vintage and antique furniture and other accoutrements while creating both a living home and a future showpiece. There is an English court chair on display in an alcove, and antique platters circle the dining room on the high plate rail. A heavy wooden table that seats 10 is displayed with places set as though ready for the next formal dinner. The Madonna is long gone from the cabinetry niche, but there is now a porcelain phrenology bust there, representing a pseudoscience popular in the 19th century.
There is a skylight on the second floor that brings in soft light from the well above that cuts through an attic where frat dances reportedly took place during the days of Kappa Sigma.
And what historic home could get by without a bit of a ghost story to go with it?
You won't get Arthur Hart to believe in ghosts, but Bushnell's children and ex-wife, and even fraternity residents claimed to hear noises, or found the drapes mysteriously opened or closed. (In the mid-1900s, a young girl was accidentally shot and killed in the house. But that's another story left to history.)
Meanwhile, the house itself has almost been left out of history. Hart once hoped the entire block would be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Surprisingly, that did not happen.
At the time registration was being pondered, residents on the block feared devaluation, Hart said, worried there would be too many restrictions should they ever want to modify their homes. Hart says their fears were unwarranted, but today those homes are also still unregistered.
But that's OK. There is more history to come - especially with the opportunity to rent the home for private dinners and receptions. Bushnell is thrilled to share his longtime home.
"It's been a wonderful place to live," Bushnell said.